Ottawa

Need 175 buses? OC Transpo might have a deal for you

With Ottawa's new Confederation Line trains up and running — usually — the city suddenly finds itself with 175 spare buses on its hands.

Diesel-electric hybrids proved costly

One of the diesel-electric buses makes its way up Bank Street in this file photo. (Martin Weaver/CBC)

With Ottawa's new Confederation Line trains up and running — most of the time — the city suddenly finds itself with 175 spare buses on its hands.

OC Transpo is moving ahead with a plan to off-load its Orion VII hybrids even though the diesel-electric buses, purchased between 2008 and 2010, aren't the oldest in its fleet.

Director of transit operations Troy Charter said the city considered a lot of options when it decided which buses to retire, but ultimately decided on the entire class of hybrids.

"That was right about the same number that we needed to pull out with the launch of Line 1, so we also looked at the benefits with standardizing our bus fleet," Charter said.

"It just simplifies our operations greatly, especially when you're dealing with over 800 buses." 

Expensive maintenance 

Charter said removing the hybrid buses allows OC Transpo to cancel their maintenance contract and avoid a major battery overhaul that was coming soon.

"It's an expensive proposition to replace the batteries for a single bus, let alone the whole fleet," he said. 

The buses have been an expensive acquisition from the start, each costing $150,000 more than a standard model with a similar capacity.

Then the city was hit with a $7-million bill to replace batteries in 2012. OC Transpo even considered retrofitting the vehicles to make them diesel-only. 

New options 

Charter said environmentally friendly buses have come a long way since the Orion VII hybrids were introduced.

"These were first-generation electric batteries, and the technology has changed," he said. "There is a lot of new technology out there now than there was 10 to 15 years ago."

The city's transit commission has asked for a study of fully electric buses.

Meanwhile, the city has started the process of selling the old ones, likely to another municipality, but Charter said it's hard to know if there will be a buyer.

"There has been years when we reduce buses that we have had buyers, and there are other years where we haven't," he said.

"It is hard for me to speculate, but we are going to go through the process." 

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